Patrick Keady

Safety : learning from transport



Our mindset about safety in healthcare seems to be at odds with our colleagues in transport.  When it comes to costs, they are interested in how safer outcomes lead to more savings.  While in healthcare we seem to be more interested in the costs of responding to infections, complications and so on.  One mindset tends to be proactive and the other reactive.


Colleagues in transport have calculated that €1.70 million* is the financial benefit of preventing one death on European roads.  This takes account of human loss, medical costs, production loss, property damage, settlement costs and costs due to traffic congestion.


Transport focuses on the upside of saving lives rather than the downside of when things go wrong.  I’m not aware of estimates in terms of the benefit of preventing the death of one person while in receipt of healthcare – if you know, can you mention in the comments section below?


As shown in the graph, the UK had the third lowest number of deaths on the roads in 2001, third to Sweden and Malta.  And both countries were ahead of Malta in 2009.


Transport safety campaigns regularly tell us what not to do – don’t drink and drive – although they are getting better at rewarding the public, by saying ‘thank you’ and this video is a good example.



RSA – Kilkee – TVC from Irish International on Vimeo.


The number of road deaths in Ireland in 2011 was down to 30% of the number in the early 1970s.  Ireland had the eleventh lowest number of deaths on the roads in 2001 and their position improved to nineth in 2009.


This video was part of the Road Safety Authority’s refreshing Christmas 2011 road safety campaign aimed at further reducing alcohol limits for drink driving.  The video sets out to engage sceptics head on, by putting a number on the lives already saved from motorists driving more safely on Irish roads in the last ten years.  Although it’s not just a number and the video makes it meaningful, by celebrating everyday life in a town with a population of the same size.


Perhaps it is time for healthcare to take a similar approach in thanking populations for taking better care of themselves and therefore contributing to reducing death rates from heart conditions and some cancers?  Who knows, it could help some of the sceptics to exercise a little more and the eat a more healthily?


*European Transport Safety Council (2010) 5th Road Safety PIN Report


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